Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

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Dweeble Regular Member • Posts: 394
Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

Hi, I'm going to sound very dim and amateurish indeed but here's where I am:

Currently run a PC bought 6 years ago. I asked for basic but robust build and it is certainly both   My workflow is a mainly a mix of Capture Nx-D, GIMP and irfanview.

It can cope, but Nx-D is dreadfully sluggish. It certainly hasn't got the guts to think about stuff like Gigapixel, and is running out of storage. Have looked at putting new CPU in and the motherboard isn't up to it.

I've always thought PCs more robust than laptops, but it would be nice to be able to upload pix when out at events.

Budget is as tight as you like. Think of a thin razor and halve it

Does a super-cheap s/hand laptop exist with a SIM card (for mobile upload, also 4G is way faster than broadband here until we get fibre), a punchy enough CPU (??) to run the editing progammes accceptably fast and add more, and the ability to plug in a seperate hard disk for storage?

Monitor quality not an issue as I guess I can plug it into my existing monitor which is a surprisingly good Dell.

Ideas, suggestions, alternative approaches? No need for it to be the whizziest, given I shoot with D3S/D300 so only 12MP files.....thats my general approach, to be happy with top quality kit from a generation or so back.....

Please make any replies intelligible to a tech illiterate

PS Current plan is to keep exisiting PC running for non-photographic tasks. Does that mean the new one could be Linux based? Does that open up other possibilties?

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WryCuda Forum Pro • Posts: 10,398
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???
1

Dweeble wrote:

Hi, I'm going to sound very dim and amateurish indeed but here's where I am:

Currently run a PC bought 6 years ago. I asked for basic but robust build and it is certainly both My workflow is a mainly a mix of Capture Nx-D, GIMP and irfanview.

It can cope, but Nx-D is dreadfully sluggish. It certainly hasn't got the guts to think about stuff like Gigapixel, and is running out of storage. Have looked at putting new CPU in and the motherboard isn't up to it.

I've always thought PCs more robust than laptops, but it would be nice to be able to upload pix when out at events.

Budget is tight...

Does a super-cheap s/hand laptop exist with a SIM card (for mobile upload, also 4G is way faster than broadband here until we get fibre), a punchy enough CPU (??) to run the editing progammes accceptably fast and add more, and the ability to plug in a seperate hard disk for storage?

I have an Acer AMD A9-9410 laptop that's about 4 years old, and it would be OK for your needs. It cost about USD$600 four years ago. (8Gb RAM, 128Gb SSD, 2Tb HDD).

Rather than a SIM card, think about using the "Mobile Hot Spot" feature of your cell phone. When travelling, I use my mobile for internet in preference to WiFi at motels etc. (More secure, and usually faster than motel WiFi).

Monitor quality not an issue as I guess I can plug it into my existing monitor which is a surprisingly good Dell.

Most laptops have good video support via HDMI connection. Can be different resolution to laptop built-in screen.

Ideas, suggestions, alternative approaches? No need for it to be the whizziest, given I shoot with D3S/D300 so only 12MP files.....thats my general approach, to be happy with top quality kit from a generation or so back.....

Please make any replies intelligible to a tech illiterate

PS Current plan is to keep exisiting PC running for non-photographic tasks.

Have you considered some modest upgrades to your PC, such extra RAM and/or SSD boot disk?

Does that mean the new one could be Linux based? Does that open up other possibilties?

I wouldn't open that particular can of worms if I were you.

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PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 17,097
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

I work on an older laptop most of the time here, though not much for photo processing.  It went from on-the-shelf-permanently to usable when I cloned the old HDD to a SSD,.   These days, it's by far the biggest bang for the buck.

But, you're still dealing with Capture NX-d, which I think is probably just going to be slow.  At least be sure it is patched, and I'd clear the cache periodically.   When I was using it, it seemed to start out not-too-slow and then get slower the more images I edited (one at a time) until it crashed.

Long and short of it - SSD that thing if you haven't already, and start looking at tuning the software,

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"In theory, practice and theory are the same. In practice, they're not."

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Morris0
Morris0 Forum Pro • Posts: 17,777
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

Dweeble wrote:

Hi, I'm going to sound very dim and amateurish indeed but here's where I am:

Currently run a PC bought 6 years ago. I asked for basic but robust build and it is certainly both My workflow is a mainly a mix of Capture Nx-D, GIMP and irfanview.

It can cope, but Nx-D is dreadfully sluggish. It certainly hasn't got the guts to think about stuff like Gigapixel, and is running out of storage. Have looked at putting new CPU in and the motherboard isn't up to it.

I've always thought PCs more robust than laptops, but it would be nice to be able to upload pix when out at events.

Budget is as tight as you like. Think of a thin razor and halve it

Does a super-cheap s/hand laptop exist with a SIM card (for mobile upload, also 4G is way faster than broadband here until we get fibre), a punchy enough CPU (??) to run the editing progammes accceptably fast and add more, and the ability to plug in a seperate hard disk for storage?

Monitor quality not an issue as I guess I can plug it into my existing monitor which is a surprisingly good Dell.

Ideas, suggestions, alternative approaches? No need for it to be the whizziest, given I shoot with D3S/D300 so only 12MP files.....thats my general approach, to be happy with top quality kit from a generation or so back.....

Please make any replies intelligible to a tech illiterate

PS Current plan is to keep exisiting PC running for non-photographic tasks. Does that mean the new one could be Linux based? Does that open up other possibilties?

Laptops are a bit slower than desktops of the same generation.  The combination of going used and low end may get you where you are today.  A SIM card is a premium option and much less common and will drive the cost of the laptop up.  Better to tether to your phone via USB or using your phone as a WiFi hot spot.

Morris

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OP Dweeble Regular Member • Posts: 394
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

Thanks everyone, remembered a pal had offered me a tablet will work with phone for basic culling and mobile uploading, so looks like the laptop idea goes in favour of a cheap PC upgrade.

Have done some digging and the PC's CPU was basically archaic when new so is actually doing pretty well btu motherboard is ay too feeble to upgrade.

My brain gets fried by how far I should upgrade.....some say i5, others i7...and it seems even these vary wildy by generation. Looks like NVME cards are even better than SSDs...is that right?

How do I tell if a PC can be upgraded to take these? I'm guessing tacking on HDD storage  by USB is pretty easy.......

So...give me a minimium spec I should be shopping for!

Humble apologies for being a total novice numpty

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CAcreeks
CAcreeks Forum Pro • Posts: 15,832
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

WryCuda wrote:

Dweeble wrote:

PS Current plan is to keep existing PC running for non-photographic tasks.

Have you considered some modest upgrades to your PC, such extra RAM and/or SSD boot disk?

Your old PC is mostly likely not capable of NVMe, so replacing the hard drive with SATA type SSD will help a lot with many tasks, although perhaps not Capture NX-D.

https://www.newegg.com/p/pl?d=1TB+ssd&NValue=-1&Page=14

If you can use your friend's borrowed tablet to cull photos when out of the house, that will avoid spending on a laptop.

Does that mean the new one could be Linux based? Does that open up other possibilties?

I wouldn't open that particular can of worms if I were you.

I strongly recommend trying Darktable for NEF conversion. It seems to work really well for me, though I convert far more Fujifilm RAF files with it.

If Darktable works for you, it sounds like you can replace Windows with Linux for an additional performance boost. GIMP runs fast on Linux.

OP Dweeble Regular Member • Posts: 394
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

Taking that onboard, although I have a feeling adding a new PC with a newer CPU would make more sense than tinkering with this one. So, how low can I go and still get a decent improvement?

I like darktable, but more for improving than for the initial conversion, I much prefer the way Nx-D does that. I'm very undisciplined in my workflow, dot in and out and play to see what works best for a particular image.....Rawtherapee is amazing too, the power and sophistication of these things! And all for free....but very easy to do the kid in a candy store thign and over-cook it all!

A Linux PC purely for photo work appeals, but an earlier poster warned agin!

It would all be much easier if I felt like spending sensible money!

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CAcreeks
CAcreeks Forum Pro • Posts: 15,832
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

Dweeble wrote:

Taking that onboard, although I have a feeling adding a new PC with a newer CPU would make more sense than tinkering with this one. So, how low can I go and still get a decent improvement?

I like darktable, but more for improving than for the initial conversion, I much prefer the way Nx-D does that. I'm very undisciplined in my workflow, dot in and out and play to see what works best for a particular image.....Rawtherapee is amazing too, the power and sophistication of these things! And all for free....but very easy to do the kid in a candy store thign and over-cook it all!

A Linux PC purely for photo work appeals, but an earlier poster warned agin!

It would all be much easier if I felt like spending sensible money!

A half TB (500GB) SSD costs as little as $50. You did not say what size HDD you've got now, nor if you have space for a second drive.

Darktable is really fast for Raw conversion, if you don't do noise reduction. I have no trouble equalling Nikon out-of-camera JPEG, which is what I assume NX-D does.

It's impossible to buy a good photographic laptop (new) for under $1500 now. If you can use an external monitor, that might save you about $500 on high-end 100% sRGB screen.

Austinian
MOD Austinian Forum Pro • Posts: 10,646
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

Dweeble wrote:

A Linux PC purely for photo work appeals, but an earlier poster warned agin!

A Linux PC can make sense if there are no Windows apps you want to run on it.

It would all be much easier if I felt like spending sensible money!

Maybe not; we've seen some agonizingly long threads for people who were spending pretty big money on their PCs.

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OP Dweeble Regular Member • Posts: 394
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

OK, numpty incoming...Irfanview is brilliant at adding IPTC data....it only exists for Windows. Does that mean it couldn't run under Linux?

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Austinian
MOD Austinian Forum Pro • Posts: 10,646
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

Dweeble wrote:

OK, numpty incoming...Irfanview is brilliant at adding IPTC data....it only exists for Windows. Does that mean it couldn't run under Linux?

If you don't mind configuring WINE, apparently you can:

"Q: Can I use IrfanView on Linux?
A: Yes. There is no native-Linux version of IrfanView. However, you can use IrfanView in conjunction with Linux programs like WINE, Windows Linux emulators and Linux-based virtual machines. Take the ZIP version of IrfanView and unzip it or copy your existing Windows IrfanView folder to Linux. This is easier because the installer may need additional Windows DLLs to run. See instructions on: IrfanView on Linux with Wine ."

https://www.irfanview.com/faq.htm#PAGE15

I use Windows for everything important, including the excellent IrfanView.

I have a Linux boot drive on this PC, but I seldom use it; I just like to keep an eye on new OS developments. I've never had the need to try WINE, but CAcreeks who is a frequent poster here probably knows much more about it.

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CAcreeks
CAcreeks Forum Pro • Posts: 15,832
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???

Dweeble wrote:

OK, numpty incoming... Irfanview is brilliant at adding IPTC data...

Darktable can edit IPTC and add EXIF data.

it only exists for Windows. Does that mean it couldn't run under Linux?

I use and like Irfanview on Windows, but on Linux Mint I use and like Geeqie.

If you want, you can visit old threads on this forum about buying a budget photography laptop, but the end result is usually it cannot be done.

Austinian
MOD Austinian Forum Pro • Posts: 10,646
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???
1

CAcreeks wrote:

If you want, you can visit old threads on this forum about buying a budget photography laptop, but the end result is usually it cannot be done.

Since the OP's files are small and he has an external monitor, maybe. But I wouldn't want to make any suggestions, except perhaps to avoid second-hand machines and instead shop low-price factory refurb gaming laptops. He can ignore their dismal built-in displays when editing.

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WryCuda Forum Pro • Posts: 10,398
Re: Laptop with external HDD as a super-budget solution.....???
1

Dweeble wrote:

Thanks everyone, remembered a pal had offered me a tablet will work with phone for basic culling and mobile uploading, so looks like the laptop idea goes in favour of a cheap PC upgrade.

I use an iPad quite successfully when travelling.

Have done some digging and the PC's CPU was basically archaic when new so is actually doing pretty well btu motherboard is ay too feeble to upgrade.

Just for interest sake, what are the specs. of your old PC?

My brain gets fried by how far I should upgrade.....some say i5, others i7...and it seems even these vary wildy by generation. Looks like NVME cards are even better than SSDs...is that right?

Even for an old hand, there's a bewildering variety of CPUs. In addition to Intel, there's AMD Ryzen to consider.

How do I tell if a PC can be upgraded to take these? I'm guessing tacking on HDD storage by USB is pretty easy...

Most older computers will have SATA (serial) connection for hard drives, and the earlier generation of SATA SSDs will still be a worthwhile upgrade (SATA SSDs are usually packaged to look like small HDDs). NVMe.M2 cards are SSDs that use a faster interface. The faster varieties of USB can be used for expansion, more usually as a backup option. If your older PC can only support USB2, forget about that option.

So...give me a minimium spec I should be shopping for!

Difficult, considering the financial constraints.

I recently bought a general-purpose computer for around USD$1500 (without monitor).

  • i7-10700
  • 16Gb RAM
  • 512Gb SSD NVMe.M2
  • 1Tb HDD
  • 1650-S Video

It does an excellent job for office applications, web, games, photo stuff, although the SSD/HDD storage is perhaps rather under spec. for intensive photo processing. Gear-heads would no doubt recommend at least doubling the performance/capacity of each listed component, but for my needs, that would be a waste of money.

Humble apologies for being a total novice numpty.

You seem to be asking the right questions.

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